There is no better music snob than the DJ. I have said it before: Keep your lead singers and your emotional bass players, stick me at a table with the DJs and I am in eavesdropping heaven.
That's where I was a few days ago, when some of our Best Weekly DJ Night DOMA nominees gathered around a vinyl covered table at Ships for a jukebox showdown ahead of tonight's Awards Ceremony at House of Blues. As I put each DJ up to the challenge of $1 worth of music from a pre-curated selection at Ships, which mostly deals in pre-'70s era Soul and Country and even earlier incarnations of Rock & Roll.
See also: The Best DJ Nominees at Cosmo's in 2012
The weekly has certainly made it's mark in Dallas. That night Cool Out's Tony Schwa, The Basement's DJ Sober and Stone Soul Saturday's rotating crew of 45 spinners Gabe Mendoza, Scott McCoullough and Lisa Bush aka Wild In The Streets came together on the rare night that none of them have a deck waiting in the dark corner of one of our favorite bars.
As we gathered together in that dusty dive bar we discussed the contribution these nights have to the Dallas music ecology. Whether you want bangers at Sober's Basement, that special Disco touch only Schwa brings or the gems brought forth from the Stone Soul crew's crate digs, these nights rarely leave the Dallas nightlife connoisseur longing for more. Still for those looking to fill a void, Schwa offers some simple advice. "Don't kill your own party."
He means it literally, expanding on Sober's advice to "be strategic," but it's a wonderful metaphor. And a clue into why audiences will reward those providing something relevant. Their weekly nature provides ritual, the taste level provides escape and they are all chasing an elusive vibe. As long as they keep chasing it, you will keep accidentally hearing that perfect song, at the perfect moment, wondering, "But, how did they know?" The chase keeps these parties alive.
Though not joining us that eve, the same is certainly true for Blake Ward's Tuesday night Showdown at The Sundown, which has also become a nice one-off for free live performances and live plays of important new music releases. Ynfynyt Scroll's The Turn Up is already looking to revamp it's offering to the Dallas scene, but very quickly earned a reputation for deep cuts on the dance floor with an international flavor that always satisfied me uniquely.
To see how these tastemakers work within some creative controls, we gave them each $1 and let them loose on the beloved Ship's jukebox. More than one needed to be reminded how to flip the discs ... a reminder of how the plebeians must curate their music on occasion. Still, I think you will agree that if you happened upon this playlist in the dark of a night at that pleather bar, you would be pleased.
DJ Sober Got to Give It Up - Marvin Gaye I Wanna Get Next To You - Rose Royce
Scott McCollugh Don't Cry No More - Bobby Bland Ruth Brown - Sweet Baby of Mine
Gabe Mendoza Ball of Confusion - The Temptations Time Is Tight - Booker T and the MG's
Tony Schwa Do Your Dance, Part 1 - Rose Royce Inner City Blues - Marvin Gaye
Lisa Bush aka Wild In The Streets 9-5 - Tom Jones (YES!) In Dreams - Roy Orbison
That Tom Jones version of 9-5 y'all. Don't be scared and thank you, Lisa.
No matter how idealistic I get about the power of curated music, one conversation always comes up. The Request. You guys, you have to stop. McCollough got a Grateful Dead request at his SOUL night. Sober got an actual request in the last week, in 2013 for ... THE MACARENA. Can we just let them be the experts?
I am a fan of the DJ. Their ability to understand a crowd is intimately linked to their ability to understand what music can do to that crowd. They are the caretakers of the music community, listening as we all bring our long days, our birthday wishes, our celebrations and our blues to the dance floor and in exchange your world is suddenly underscored. Your body is suddenly moving. The endorphins moving from your audio sensory to your hips. It's not an accident. The DJ's are chasing you.